Outstanding Faculty Research Secures Major Grants

Geography and Anthropology’s outstanding faculty research has recently secured several major grants from national funding agencies.  The benefits of funding for research at America’s universities are innumerable.  We see the impact of university research around us in our daily lives and G&A’s research grants allow us to attract talented students and foster their education for the overall enhancement of society.  Among these agencies are the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  We anticipate continuing this trend in the future and we are proud to spotlight a few of our accomplished faculty members’ achievements here.

Dr. Heather McKillop and Dr. E. Cory Sills of The University of Texas at Tyler were awarded a three-year NSF grant from the Archaeology Program entitled “Labor organization in a traditional complex society.”  Along with undergraduate and graduate students, the interdisciplinary research will investigate how staple goods and resources are produced and distributed in complex economies, in particular by examining how food staples are produced for marketplace trade. The researchers will examine what factors make small enterprises successful, including the organization and composition of labor and the identification of markets, as well as factors that contribute to failure.  The research is important to the United States economy, which includes both large corporations, as well as small businesses, including family-run enterprises.

Dr. Fahui Wang along with Dr. Tracy Onega of Dartmouth Medical School were awarded a National Institutes of Health grant entitled “Automated Delineation of Cancer Service Areas.” Health care delivery in the U.S. has been informed by methodologies that create “service areas” to evaluate how health care resources are distributed across the population and how that impacts health outcomes. Hospital Service Areas (HSAs) and Hospital Referral Regions (HRRs) of the Dartmouth Atlas Project are prominent examples of spatial units that are used to assess regional variation of health care utilization, expenditure and quality. Policy makers have used these units to design strategies for improving health and health care systems. Delivery of cancer care in the United States represents a unique set of patients, technologies, clinical specialization, and patient-centered perspectives, distinct from other patient populations.  Dr. Wang and Dr. Onega propose to develop a novel method for generating utilization-based service areas - Cancer Service Areas (CSAs) – geospatial units analogous to HSAs, but specific to cancer care – in order to create a framework for assessing regional cancer care delivery, quality, and outcomes. Powered by Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the method is data-driven, automated, adaptable, and user-friendly for health professionals.  

Dr. David Chicoine, in collaboration with Dr. George F. Lau of the University of East Anglia (UK), will undertake archaeological field research to document and understand the rise of divine lordships in ancient Peru. The project, funded through the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in collaboration with the the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of the Research Councils of the United Kingdom (RCUK) will investigate the ancient political centers of Cerro San Isidro (Moro region) and Pashash (Pallasca region), and their surrounding hinterlands in the northern Ancash Department, Peru.  Through fieldwork, educational outreach, and collaborations, the research will build fruitful links with local institutions (schools, museums) and hence add value to the management of Pre-Columbian cultural heritage.

Drs. Kristine Delong and David Chicoine received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Paleo Perspectives on Climate Change program for a three-year project starting in August 2018 entitled “New Perspectives on Paleo-ENSO Conditions in Coastal Peru as Seen Through Short-Lived Bivalves.” This project will support Ph.D. candidate Jacob Warner’s research in Peru where he is combining work in archaeology, paleoclimate, and geochemistry in his dissertation research.  This project leverages the expertise of paleoclimatologists and archaeologists while training students in a multidisciplinary approach that will develop a new reconstruction method that could be used in other locations with abundant shell material. The final product will be a new record of ENSO variability in north-central Peru for 2,500 years ago, a critical area and time frame currently lacking ENSO records.

Dr. Juliet Brophy received funding from the National Science Foundation for a project entitled “Collaborative Research: Statistical Analysis of Partially Observed Shapes in Two Dimensions.”  This project proposes as a starting point leveraging the ideas of nonparametric, hot-deck type multiple imputation to shapes that are defined by unlabeled points and/or functions, as opposed to shapes defined by landmarks where traditional methods of multiple imputation can be applied.  This involves matching partially observed shapes to fully observed shapes, randomly choosing a fully observed donor shape among the shapes that are good matches for the partial shape, and then completing the partial shape with the unmatched part of the donor shape. The developed imputation framework will be tested using teeth from the Family Bovidae, whose classification plays an important role for biological anthropologists in reconstructing past environments associated with early human ancestors.

Dr. Barry Keim was awarded a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant for the project entitled “Building a More Resilient Coast: Understanding and Adapting to Extreme Events.”  The coastal region of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama experiences extreme weather in the form of hurricanes, storm surge, and heavy rainfall. Both the deadliest (Galveston Hurricane of 1900) and most costly (Hurricane Katrina in 2005) storms in United States occurred within this region. This, combined with dramatic land subsidence rates, makes this region the most vulnerable in the United States to climate change. The project proposes a collaboration with the NOAA Sea Grant Extension Network through the creation of a Coastal Climate Extension Specialist (CCES) position that will be incorporated into the SCIPP team at LSU, and will work closely with NOAA Sea Grant in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi and Alabama.  The project clearly builds and expands capacity to work with coastal stakeholders, synthesizes and communicates research findings, fosters strong connections between researchers and decision-makers, and will share lesson learned, tools, and methods with other RISA and COCA research teams.